The author references being inspired by a sort of ancient Roman setting, which makes sense as there's quite varied representation in characters - I'd guessed sort of north Middle Eastern or Mediterranean - with blond hair, blue/grey eyes, darker skin and hair, tribesmen etc. all referenced. The tension seems as much class-based as racial, though I guess the classes are all based on different regional origins in the story world? It was fairly underplayed, which I was fine with. I'm more interested in character-based stories than fantasy that's too concerned with its political machinations and overly clever worldbuilding anyways.
And on that note, I appreciated the underdog/rebel character coming from a place of fear and weakness with a strong (albeit traumatic) growth arc, and being balanced by pair of sort of opposite supporting characters from the ruling class who display female dominance in different ways.
The amount, detail and frequency of the traumatic stuff right up front had a bit of an off-putting effect for me instead of feeling high-tension and dramatic, but the overall story has a lot of hope and character. Generally a good read, well executed, detailed and engaging. I'll stick around for the series.